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Booker, Markey, McCaskill Introduce Community Broadband Act

January 22, 2015
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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. today introduced the Community Broadband Act to preserve the rights of cities and localities to build municipal broadband networks. Internet access is increasingly a necessity, yet rural and low-income communities continue to face barriers to broadband adoption. Municipal broadband can often provide an affordable, reliable option.

“As Mayor of Newark, I saw firsthand the value of empowering local communities to invest and innovate. The Community Broadband Act provides cities the flexibility they need to meet the needs of their residents,” Sen. Booker said. “This legislation will enhance economic development, improve access to education and health care services, and provide increased opportunity to individuals in underserved areas. At a time when local governments are looking for ways to ensure their communities are connected and have access to advanced and reliable networks, the Community Broadband Act empowers local governments to respond to this ever-increasing demand.”

"Barriers at the state level are preventing communities from developing local solutions when there is little or no choice in their Internet service provider,” Sen. Markey said. “This legislation will support the ability of cities to decide for themselves whether or not they would like to build their own broadband networks and provide community members with high speed Internet service. I thank Senator Booker for his leadership introducing the Community Broadband Act, which will support more options in the broadband market and greater local choice. I also continue to urge the FCC to act now to use its authority to end any restrictions placed upon local communities to make these decisions for themselves.”

“Folks in small towns and rural communities should have the same access as everyone else to the Internet, and the jobs and business opportunities it brings,” Sen. McCaskill said. “Large Internet providers too often aren’t willing to offer service in rural America, so this bill ensures local communities can come together to provide their residents with access to the opportunities high-speed broadband offers.”

The Community Broadband Act is supported by the following organizations: "We believe these decisions about how best to expand Internet access are best made by local governments, who are most informed of the need and challenges. We applaud Senator Booker for this bill to ensure communities can decide for themselves if a partnership or an investment in network infrastructure is the right choice." - Christopher Mitchell, Director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Minneapolis

“Senator Booker has been a great champion of local communities, both as a longtime mayor and now as a member of Congress. As a former mayor, he clearly understands the importance of local decision-making regarding critical economic development infrastructure. CLIC applauds Senator Booker for his affirmation of local Internet choice and his support for the authority of local governments to work on next generation broadband networks with their private sector partners and local communities.” - Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC)

Chris Lewis, VP of Government Affairs at Public Knowledge, said:

"We are grateful that Senator Booker and others are taking a strong lead promoting the ability for localities to choose their own destiny by creating economic development projects for high-speed broadband. These decisions belong at the local level, and this bill ensures that communities are empowered to make their own decisions about their own tax dollars, and assume their own risk in developing projects.

"Many local officials turn to public-private broadband partnerships or full public projects as a last resort when incumbent private providers cannot or will not deploy high-speed networks in their communities. This bill recognizes the need to ensure that private broadband providers have a chance to offer services before millions are invested by communities. The bill also promotes transparent public decision-making before these choices are finalized."

Free Press Action Fund President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

"We welcome this legislation and urge other members of Congress to support communities' right to build their own networks. By removing these protectionist state laws, Congress will enable cities to create local alternatives in a broadband marketplace that has far too few options.

"The industry's monopoly-minded campaign to regulate away local competition is one of the worst examples of its undue influence in policymaking. Internet innovation happens at the local level, when you let cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Cedar Falls, Iowa, experiment with their own high-speed networks. Innovation stalls when you let cable companies control access and lock out competition."

"Offering choice in the high-speed Internet marketplace has been a boon for local economies. Every American home should be connected to high-speed fiber; every person should be able to use that infrastructure to access a diverse range of affordable high-quality communications services. This legislation gives communities much more control over their communications and should become the law."

Full text of the Community Broadband Act can be viewed here.